Owning my Grief after Three Miscarriages: A Guest Post
Miscarriage is a silent grief. We don’t understand why it happens. We don’t know how to talk about it when it does. Through my experience of three miscarriages and three healthy births, I am slowly learning to speak. Here is part of my story of learning to redemptively own my grief, and, in doing so, to try and offer comfort when others grieve silently.
Healing through words
Writing in my journal shaped my encounter with the miscarriages. I initially viewed our first miscarriage in 2004 as my wife Kristine’s loss, because she endured the physical trauma. Journaling about the miscarriage helped me acknowledge the hopes and fears of parenthood that I had held for our child. As I continued writing, I claimed each miscarriage as my own loss. I also claimed my identity as a grieving father, and Kristine’s identity as the mother of my children.
Writing about my confusion and grief enabled me to mourn the awfulness of your death. Not as an angry shout at the futility of life in a world that burned me one too many times. Nor as blind acceptance of actions from a distant God whom I’ve no right to question. But to acknowledge the loss of a life I was growing to love, the end of a journey that hardly had a chance to begin, the absence of a relationship I was looking forward to entering.
That lament created space for me to honor the value you brought to my life, verbalize the pain of your loss, and express the confusion of trying to come to terms with a side of life I didn’t expect to encounter. Talking about how I cried for you, for what you would bring to my life, was infinitely more valuable than finding a cure for the pain of your death.
I think I felt like I had paid my dues with the first miscarriage. Our second miscarriage forced me to face the possibility of never having children. During that time, I grappled with the symbol of the open hand, which had been foundational in my relationship with Kristine. I knew I must love her unconditionally, even though that would let her hurt me. I knew conceptually about loving my living children with the same open hand. I had never considered extending that open hand to a child still in the womb.
I had to decide whether to protect myself from being hurt by another miscarriage, or to voice my love for a child I might never meet. I also had to decide if I would extend an open hand to Kristine, who I resented for responding to the miscarriage differently than I was. Journaling helped me acknowledge the hope for my child’s life that was hidden deep beneath my cynicism about the miscarriage. I modified Albert Brumley’s hymn If We Never Meet Again as part of a liturgical farewell to my child.
Now you’ve come to the end of life’s journey. It turns out we’ll never meet any more, ‘till we gather in heaven’s bright city, far away on that beautiful shore. … Since we’ll never get to meet this side of heaven, I will meet you on that beautiful shore.
Farewell, Child, until we meet face-to-face for the first time. Go with my love. Dad
Healing through songs
The first miscarriage shocked me. The second miscarriage shattered my worldview. The third miscarriage brought me to despair. When we decided to try and get pregnant a fifth time, I let myself hope for new life in ways that I hadn’t when our daughters, Elise and Charis were born. I felt like that hope was thrown back in my face when we miscarried a third time. I wanted to give up completely on my hope for new life, and on the work Kristine and I had done to grieve together instead of alone. It hurt too much. I wanted the dreams to die.
I rarely write music but occasionally I have responded to turmoil in my life through music. The third miscarriage was one of those times. I arranged three texts from Celtic Daily Prayer into a song called The Caim Prayer. The song has two themes: The first is the cry that God would “lift me out of the valley of despair” that I entered when our child died. The second is asking for God’s leading “along a path I had never seen before” so that our dreams would not die.
Kristine and I also compiled about thirty songs – some individual favorites, and others that we listened to together. Expressing our pain, despair, and confusion to each other through these songs helped us to grieve both alone and together.
Healing through images
The crocuses in our yard comforted Kristine after our first miscarriage. Like our unborn children, they are precious, beautiful, and alive for only a brief time. When we commissioned Indianapolis artist Kyle Ragsdale to paint our family for our 10th wedding anniversary, Kristine asked him to include a crocus for each unborn child. In many ways, that painting represents our hope for the miscarriages to be part of our lives … not as a dark blot in the center, but nevertheless woven into their creative fabric. Much of that hope is articulated in a letter that I wrote to all my children.
All six of you walked an uncertain road with me as you have borne my burdens through the words of these letters. You will walk that road with me into the future. My unborn children, each of your presence in our lives continues to shape how your mom and I engage our world. You have challenged us to grant you dignity, and encouraged us to not let your deaths be the last word. Elise, Charis, and Clare, you are calling us into the joy of making new life grow. You will learn with us what it means to remember your three siblings, to live with open hands, and to see and speak peace into humanity’s wounds. So we will walk together, until the day when we all meet for the first time.
About the author: Dr. Shawn Collins grew up in Kenya as a missionary kid. This cultural diversity built a foundation that influenced his faith and vocation. His work in the aerospace and energy industries integrates graduate degrees in mechanical engineering and anthropology. He regularly writes and presents on a variety of systems engineering, organizational behavior, and theology topics. Shawn lives in Indianapolis with his wife and three living children.
More information about Shawn’s book Letters to My Unborn Children is available online at www.letterstomyunbornchildren.com. It can purchased there, from Kirkhouse Publishers, or from Amazon. The ebook can be purchased from MemorEmedia.